There once was a man with a Palm,
To whom, tech was a balm.
Then his hard drive was lost,
All his data was tossed.
Ah, paper: no storm, just calm.
I’m no luddite. I have an iPod; three digital still cameras; a digital camcorder; a cell phone; a personal laptop; a personal desktop; an office laptop; a Blackberry; a desperate, childish desire for a Nintendo DS Lite; a gnawing urge to drop my personal laptop “accidentally” onto a concrete slab in order to justify a new one; and a spouse who doesn’t understand any of this.
But there is one area of my life in which I have rejected technology: My Filofax. I’ve already recorded my reasons for rejecting the Device, and embracing paper. But in the months since then, it has become increasingly clear that paper users are second-class citizens in the workplace. I work in an Outlook office. I used to be an Outlook devotee. And, as long as I spent all my time at my desktop, it worked fine. Handy reminders popped up. Group meetings were easy to schedule. But I found it cumbersome to extend those conveniences away from my desktop. Paper offered a perfect solution for me. I can carry my Filofax everywhere. No boot-up times. No battery exhaustion. Random access, perfectly implemented. Fewer worries about data loss. (I am not so naïve as to believe the Filofax is a “safe” repository. As a human who sometimes exhibits unusual levels of cluelessness, I can’t discount the possibility that I will lose it, or drop it into a vat of boiling oil, or accidentally toss it from an airplane at 30,000 feet. However, I am comforted by my awareness of my weaknesses, my ability to compensate for them, and the fact that I no longer fear the vicissitudes of a hard drive platter that could turn one degree off-kilter at a moment’s notice.)
Paper is my way. Why can’t my office let me be?
Since I work in an Outlook office, I often receive invitations to meetings, which upon acceptance are automatically placed in my Outlook calendar. That doesn’t both me too much. I can simply ignore the Outlook calendar and write the data in my Filofax. (Although the off-handedness of the widespread assumption that we all use Outlook reminds me of my fourth grade teacher, who offhandedly told us to gather in a circle in our public school classroom for prayer. “What’s the big deal?” she probably thought.)
What irks me is when people say, “Oh, yes, let’s have a meeting. Philofaxer, why don’t you send around an Outlook appointment?” Look, I don’t use Outlook. I don’t want to use Outlook. I really don’t care if you do. You manage your appointments however you want. But don’t force them on me. I am a paper man. I will write down my own damn appointments. You can inscribe yours on a tablet, or memorize them mnemonically, or hire a personal valet to keep track of them. Whatever. Just let me be.
But they don’t. Nor do I object, since that would require a spine. And I have to create some stupid Outlook appointment and send it around, and then deal with automated responses as people “accept” it.
I can’t believe the drafters of the Constitution forgot to include Freedom of Personal Planning. Time to start lobbying Congress.